I recently purchased a Panasonic UJ-845-B on eBay. I know there are other people looking for laptop drives and there does not seem to be a lot of info or reviews for many of them, probably because most drives are OEM and reviews tend to be retail products. So I thought I'd post a little mini-review for mine.
I have an IBM ThinkPad T41. For those of you unfamiliar with IBM drives, they use the 9.5mm height drive while most other laptops with a few exceptions use a 12.7mm drive. This makes it difficult to find drives for IBM. The only ones I know of are the Panasonic UJ-812/822. The 812 is 2x and -R and -RAM only. The 822 adds +R to the equation. IBM DVD burners start around $350 for the internal modular drive on IBMâ€™s website, more for the external one. Not wanting to pay that much, I decided to go the external route and put a battery in the drive bay since most of the time I am not burning discs and the battery life is more important.
There was not a lot of information available for the drive when I got the drive, one page on Panasonicâ€™s European webpage and a few retail websites, but got it anyway. I am still looking for info on it like what are good discs for it. I emailed Panasonic asking about a supported media list and such. They sent me a brochure in .PDF format which of course did not have the information I needed. The UJ-845 comes in two flavors, a slot loading type and a tray loading type. I chose the slot loading type. I always feel like I am going to break the tray when pushing down on a disc in a laptop drive. The drive is a little noisy while the disc is mounting or ejecting, but otherwise seems normal. The drive burns DVD+/-R discs at 8x, DVD+/-RW at 4x, DVD-RAM at 5x and DVD-R DL at 2.4x. It also does CD-Rs at 24x and CD-RWs at 16x. It reads DVD-ROMs at 8x and CDs at 24x. It has a 2MB buffer and buffer underrun protection. I have seen conflicting reports on the DVD-RAM. Panasonicâ€™s website says it does DVD-RAM at 5x, but I have seen on some retailerâ€™s websites it does 3x. They only had 3x discs at Wal-Mark, so that is what I got. I paid $150 for the drive plus $35 for the case. That is what I would have paid for external drive anyway. That is about $20 more than I would have paid for similar Pioneer and NEC drives. I felt the slot loading mechanism and the DVD-RAM were worth the additional monies. The drive was sold as OEM, so there was no software, discs, etc, just the drive.
I got the case for the drive here:
The case seemed a little flimsy when I first got it. There was a little plastic piece where the drive slides in that broke off when I took it apart. I glued it back on. It was a little tough to put together because of how the wires from the USB connector go to the part that goes into the back of the drive. Once I got it together, the drive felt solid and I have not had any problems with the drive or case. The case is USB powered so you do not need an additional AC adapter although you can buy one if needed. The case came with an additional USB power cable in case the main cable is not able to get enough juice to power the drive. My ThinkPad is able to run on one cable.
CD Burning -
I used Nero 6.3 for burning discs. The drive burns CD-Rs at 24x. I used a Memorex branded 48x discs to test the CD burning. CD-DVD Speed identified them as CMC Mag discs. I have burned both audio and data CDs. A full burn took about five and half minutes. That is a little slower than I have seen some other laptop CD burners, but certainly within the respectable range. Both audio and data CDs were able to be read in my LiteOn 166T DVD-ROM drive and BenQ DW1620 DVD+RW drives without any hiccups. All of the audio discs played in my Philips CD clock radio. All but one played in my car, a GM model. That one skipped a lot and finally the CD player spit it out. I chalked it up to a bad disc. None of the subsequent discs I have burned have had any problems except when going over a pothole. CD-RW burning was not as successful. I only have some Memorex branded 16-24x discs. They were identified as Infodisc. They burn fine at 24x in my BenQ. The drive would only burn them at 8x which resulted in a 10 Â½ minute burn. Iâ€™m guessing a 16x would take around seven to eight minutes, if I can find some discs that will burn at 16x. The discs worked fine in my desktop drives. I do not play many computer games. The last game I bought/played was the first Medal of Honor Game. My desktop has an integrated card and my laptop has a 32MB ATI 7500. So Iâ€™m not playing HL2 or Doom3. I did not test its ability to circumvent copy protections.
DVD Burning -
I mainly use DVD+R for burning. I only use DVD-R for backing up my PS2 games. For DVD+Rs I used Verbatim 16x Mitsubishi Chemical discs. A full burn came in around 13:15-13:30 minutes. I used both Nero and DVD Decrypter to burn discs with similar results. I read where the NEC ND-6500A can burn Taiyo Yuden 8x discs in around ten minutes. Iâ€™d like to track down some of those for my next purchase to see if I can get some better results. I have about 50 Verbatims left before purchasing some more. I only burned videos with the DVD+Rs. They read in my desktop drives and all my DVD players; a Polaroid, a Zenith and my PS2. All played without any issues. I backed up my copy of Tony Hawk 3 discs onto a Ritek 4x DVD-R. It played in my PS2. I backed my .MP3 collection onto a Maxell 4x DVD+RW. The disc is a RicohJPN. The burn lasted about seven minutes, but there was only a little over 1GB of files. I popped into my Zenith DVD player and it played like a charm. I backed up about 4GB of data onto a Memorex 4x DVD+RW disc also a RicohJPN. Burn time was approximately 16 minutes. I had no problems accessing the disc in any of my drives. I donâ€™t have any 8x DVD-R or DVD-RW discs, so I could not test any of those capabilities. I also do not have any projects that require me to use a DL disc, so I did not test that either. If a 2.4x burn is similar to my BenQ DW1620, I guessing it will clock in around 40-45 minutes. I googled â€œUJ-845 Bitsettingâ€. I got zero hits, so Iâ€™m thinking the drive does not have those capabilities. I was able to use DVD Shrink and Decrypter without complications. Shrink worked quite well. Until the burn process started, it was in the same time range as my desktop setup.
I always wanted a DVD-RAM drive, but when they first came down to a price I could afford I ended up getting a Pioneer A03. I think the ability to drag and drop in Windows was intriguing. I have never liked packet writing software. I known more than a few people who put their DirectCD or InCD formatted disc in only to find it is blank. I have never used DVD-RAM before this. Apparently you have to format the discs. There are two DVD-RAM formats; UDF and FAT32. UDF is for large files like video and FAT32 is for smaller ones. Since I am backing up data, I chose FAT32. Doing a full format was about ten minutes. You can do a quick format, but then it takes longer to burn the disc. I am hoping I only have to format it once. I used a single-sided Panasonic 2-3x DVD-RAM disc. A full burn was 30 minutes. I am not sure whether it burned at 2 or 3x or how to change it. After burning the discs, they read fine in the drive. Of course it is the only DVD-RAM drive I have. After I did the original burn, I deleted some files and copied them back. It worked.
Final Thoughts -
I like the drive a lot. For what I do, burning video and data backups, it works quite well. I really like the drag and drop ability of the DVD-RAM. I had been using DVD+RW discs, which I would have to re-burn for only a few hundred megabytes of changes. The only other laptop DVD burner I have used is a NEC ND-5500A which is a 4x drive. I liked that one too. 13 minutes for a 8x burn seems slow, but it is in line with what I have seen from similar drives. Iâ€™d like to see better results from the CD-RW discs, but I only burned one. I am not going to post any scans because this is a mini-review and it is already almost two pages. My theory on that is, if I burn a disc and it works in my players, it is a good burn. I have burned a lot of discs over the years in different burners and have only a few that did not work. Some were my fault, mostly you could see discoloration and a couple I could figure why. I donâ€™t need a scan for that. Thanks for reading. AdiÃ³s.